Heart of a Dog - sacred Nile reference?
October 3, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

In the Bulgakov novella "Heart of a Dog", the famous doctor repeatedly sings the words "toward the sacred banks of the Nile" and "from Seville to Grenada" yet there is now explanation of it. I have found no answer anywhere. Anyone know the reference?
posted by 8699oriel to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
"Toward the sacred banks of the Nile" is a line sung by the King in Aida. I'm not sure about the second quote.
posted by Bromius at 8:36 AM on October 3, 2009

It's most likely a pilgrimage route; Grenada is East from Seville, and going that way would be in the general direction of Egypt. The most famous pilgrimage route in Spain is in the other direction, to Santiago de Compostina in the Northwest, but Bulgakov was really into archaic Christian stuff, so he probably knows things I do not.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:42 AM on October 3, 2009

Bromius is onto something here; in Master and Margarita, many of the characters would quote Faust in their dialogue.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:44 AM on October 3, 2009

The second one is apparently the Serenade of don Juan by Tchaikovsky.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:56 PM on October 3, 2009

There's a long discussion of the Aida quote here (pages 173-176 of Lesley Milne's Bulgakov: The Novelist-Playwright; if the Google Books link doesn't take you to the right place, you can try "Look inside" at the Amazon link). On page 183, note 8, there's a brief discussion of the other quote:
Besides Aida, Professor Preobrazhensky has another favourite motif and words he frequently sings. They are taken from the serenade of Don Juan, "From Seville and to Granada in the quiet of the night sound the serenades and the swords clash..." The serenade adds a comic effect to several scenes, especially to the Professor's examination of his aged patients seeking rejuvenation. The dramatic poem Don Juan by A.K. Tolstoi (1861) inspired the composer Eduard Napravnik for an opera. In its turn, Don Juan's serenade inspired Tchaikovsky, who set several of A.K. Tolstoi's poems to music, to compose a romance which enjoyed great popularity and was frequently performed at concerts as a separate work.
You can hear the great Nicolai Gedda sing the serenade here (complete text in English and Russian on the right); the Seville/Granada line comes at 1:22.
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

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